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MIT To Analyze Its Role In Case Against Aaron Swartz

BOSTON — The president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the school will conduct a “thorough analysis” of its role in the hacking case against Aaron Swartz following the 26-year-old’s suicide on Friday in New York City.

In 2011, Swartz, who co-founded Reddit and as a teenager helped create RSS, was charged with stealing millions of articles from JSTOR, a subscription service used by MIT that offers digitized copies of articles from academic journals, in an attempt to make them freely available. His trial was expected to start next month.

On Sunday, MIT President L. Rafael Reif emailed the MIT community in response to Swartz’s death:

I want to express very clearly that I and all of us at MIT are extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many. It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.

Reif went on to say the analysis will aim to “describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took” in its case against Swartz.

In a statement released Saturday, Swartz’s family in Chicago expressed not only grief over his death but also bitterness toward federal prosecutors pursuing the case in Massachusetts against him.

“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death,” they said.

If convicted, Swartz faced 35 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines.

JSTOR didn’t press charges once it reclaimed the articles from Swartz, and some legal experts considered the case unfounded, saying that MIT allows guests access to the articles and Swartz, a fellow at Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics, was a guest.

With reporting by the Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom.

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